Ex-TV anchor Yair Lapid named as Israeli finance minister

TEL AVIV, March 15 Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:05am EDT

TEL AVIV, March 15 (Reuters) - Yair Lapid, a former TV anchor whose upstart political party was the biggest surprise in Israel's election, was named the country's new finance minister on Friday as a government coalition deal was signed, his spokesman said.

Lapid's centrist Yesh Atid party won a more-than-expected 19 seats in the Jan. 22 ballot, the second most behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud-Beiteinu alliance's 31 seats in the 120-member parliament.

After nearly six weeks of negotiations, Yesh Atid agreed on Thursday to join a Netanyahu-led governing coalition. The deal, and a separate alliance between Likud-Beiteinu and the far-right Jewish Home party, were signed on Friday.

Lapid, who will replace Yuval Steinitz once a new government is sworn in, ran largely on a platform of easing the financial yoke of the middle class through the need to share the national burden - a rejection of privileges for the ultra-Orthodox. He will be forced to make steep government spending cuts and raise taxes to keep Israel's budget deficit under control.

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